Thursday, January 18, 2007

American Ways

American Ways: A Guide for Foreigners in the United States, by Gary Althen

The American Ways: An Introduction to American Culture, by Edward N. Kearny

Review by Becca Cahill - PC11

Both of these books are great resources for teaching American Culture and customs. American Ways by Althen is designed for foreigners coming to America to live, work, and study, and is separated into thematic chapters. Each chapter provides background information about the topic, comparisons to other cultures, and suggestions for foreign visitors on how to handle difficulties and cultural clashes.

There are no activities or discussion questions; it is a straight text. Instead of focusing on specific customs, such as holidays or favorite foods, the author focuses on themes such as American values and assumptions, politics, and the media, and then examines Americans' attitudes towards these themes. The writing is clear and concise, and the Introduction, which examines how Americans see themselves, is especially useful for discussion in the first week or two of a culture class.

For a textbook that provides more ideas for classroom activities and discussion topics, The American Ways by Kearny is useful. Like Althen's book, it is separated into thematic units. The first half focuses on basic American values and the Historical and Religious heritage of modern Americans. The second half focuses on current social movements, recreation, and major institutions such as the family and the educational system.

The American Ways is a more traditional textbook and is packed with charts, pictures, prompts for discussion and writing, reading comprehension questions, and critical thinking activities. The activities often require the students to compare their culture to that of America. The activities and discussion prompts would also work well in an intermediate to advanced oral English class.

American Culture textbooks published in China are riddled with false facts and outdated data. The two American Ways can provide our students with current, accurate information that encourages debate and dialog about the culture of America.

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